Page 1762 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 May 2013

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MR SESELJA: The unemployment rate has tracked up quicker than the rest of the nation. Why is that? Could that be because they actually are cutting public servants? Or is it something else? We see the figures today. They put the lie. They highlight the hypocrisy of the Labor Party. The Labor Party cannot be trusted. They have not been good for our nation. They have not been good for Canberra. The Keating government started slashing jobs when they ran out of money. That is exactly what is happening under Gillard. And God forbid if they were re-elected. It would continue in earnest. The only difference is that they would never be able to fix it.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.54): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this most important topic. I thank my colleague Dr Bourke for bringing it to the attention of the Assembly. Recent comments by the federal Leader of the Opposition are a major concern not only for the ACT government but for every Canberran, and also those living in the region. The opposition leader was quoted in yesterday’s Canberra Times, as we have been saying, as saying that “as many public service jobs as possible should be relocated outside of Canberra”.

We are also aware that the shadow treasurer has on numerous occasions made statements to the effect that the federal coalition will abolish up to 20,000 public service jobs if elected. Let us pause and reflect on that for a moment: 20,000 jobs gone, just like that. Putting it another way, we are looking at 20,000 people out of employment. That is 20,000 men and women, 20,000 fathers and mothers, 20,000 brothers and sisters, 20,000 sons and daughters and, of course, for every unemployed person there is an impact on his or her family and, further, an impact on the ACT economy.

I believe that the public service deserves more respect than they are getting from the federal Liberal-National coalition. What I would like to know is whether the ACT Liberals share the same vision for Canberra as their federal counterparts. Who can forget the damage the Howard government wrought when they embarked on their vicious slash and burn attack on Canberra and the region in the 1990s.

I remind the Assembly what the ACT and region experienced over that period. The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 per cent. Private sector employment in the ACT declined by 5.2 per cent, the equivalent of around 4,700 persons. The number of businesses declined by eight per cent, the equivalent of 105 businesses. According to figures from the Real Estate Institute of Australia, median house prices decreased by four per cent, needless to say with serious consequences for tens of thousands of ACT home owners. The ACT also experienced negative population growth. We all know what this means to the ACT economy and its regional economies.

The job losses had a huge impact on the Canberra community. This resulted in a great deal of hardship for many. The anxiety and depression seen in many members of our community at this time was palpable. It was a sad episode that came about when the federal coalition won government in 1996. We all know that it was left to this ACT Labor government to pick up the pieces and transform the ACT to the strong economy it is today.

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